Before MR JUSTICE TUGENDHAT
Friday, 24th May 2013
At half past 10
TLJ/13/0509 The Lord McAlpine of West Green v Bercow
Before MR JUSTICE TUGENDHAT
Friday, 24th May 2013
At half past 10
TLJ/13/0509 The Lord McAlpine of West Green v Bercow
This paragraph from an online case report contains a striking miss by the person whose job it was to anonymise the Court of Appeal’s recent judgement regarding the paternity of a child born out of wedlock to someone “in high public office”:
54. The “fade factor” relied on by Mr Price carries little weight in this case. First, much that has been published by the media in relation to the claimant’s paternity remains available online. It is also included in Just Boris, a book written by Sonia Purnell.
The papers are reporting this morning that Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameorn were on the verge of agreement until Hugh Grant’s Hacked Off campaign lobbied Labour aggressively. This is the draft press release brandished by Hacked Off to put the wind up Ed Miliband if he went ahead with the deal:
The language is ridiculous, Hugh Grant is a victim of his own making, calling on the Queen not to carry out her constitutional duty because he doesn’t want his picture in the papers any more is frankly comical. Hacked Off is a bunch of celebs who have been caught with their pants down hiding behind the genuine suffering of the McCanns and the Dowlers who were victims of real crimes which the police are already pursuing. Hacked Off won’t say who funds them, they are self-appointed and they are secretive with a sinister agenda to protect the rich and powerful from the prying eyes of the public.
Guido is opposed to all the proposals to control the press including the government’s misguided plan to enforce extra-territorial control of publications. We won’t be cooperating with any legislation that tries to control a foreign publication like this blog because it is, in the words of the Charter, “targeted primarily at an audience in the United Kingdom”. Imagine if the Soviets had tried to do the same to Radio Free Europe during the Cold War, or the Iranian regime demanded today to regulate the BBC’s Persian Service on the grounds that it is “targeted primarily at an audience in the Islamic Republic of Iran”.
Guido reminded Brian Leveson when he was giving his evidence that under the obligations of Article 19 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights as agreed by Britain in 1948
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
That is more important than preventing the paparazzi taking pictures of Hugh Grant on a bad hair day…
Back in October Guido noted that barrister, judge and Huhne prosecution witness Constance Briscoe had been arrested. It can now be reported for the first time that her arrest is in connection with the Huhne-Pryce case. The jury have been told that Briscoe could not be relied upon as a “witness of truth”, and that she “may have lied about her involvement with the press”. Developing…
UPDATE: Briscoe negotiated with newspapers on behalf of Pryce then denied contact with the press to police, the jury is told.
Ever mindful of the little guy, Guido read with some interest a report recently of a university student union going to court to silence its own student newspaper. The Guardian reported two weeks ago:
“Edinburgh University Students’ Association, a charity independent of the University, has been granted an interim interdict (the Scots version of an injunction) preventing publication of an edition of the weekly paper carrying a story based on those confidential documents. The content of the documents cannot be disclosed by anyone because of the interdict and it is not unusual to obtain such orders in confidentiality cases. What is unusual is the breadth of order sought by the Eusa, which asked for an interdict because of the reputational harm it would do to the body. It asked for an interdict preventing publication of any material that suggests the Eusa is poorly governed and whose management is inexperienced and unaccountable.”
Guido has got hold of the confidential documents in question that can be read here. He’s not quite sure how the judge thought that an article posted on the blog of the student directly responsible for the provision of services entitled “Why We Spit In Your Drinks” was not in the public interest. The elected official in question, a Max Crema, backed the legal action. Unsurprisingly…
Yesterday Guardian journalists gleefully drew Guido’s attention to a clause in Maria Miller’s proposed legislation that attempts to bring this blog into the regulated, un-free press sector that is being created post-Leveson. Guido has highlighted the ambitious clause in red below…
1. For the purposes of this Charter:
a) “Regulator” means an independent body formed by or on behalf of relevant publishers for the purpose of conducting regulatory activities in relation to their publications;
b) “relevant publisher” means a person (other than a broadcaster) who publishes in the United Kingdom:
a. a newspaper or magazine containing news-related material, or
b. a website containing news-related material (whether or not related to a newspaper or magazine);
c) “broadcaster” means:
a. the holder of a licence under the Broadcasting Act 1990 or 1996;
b. the British Broadcasting Corporation; or
c. Sianel Pedwar Cymru;
d) a person “publishes in the United Kingdom” if the publication takes place in the United Kingdom or is targeted primarily at an audience in the United Kingdom;
e) “news-related material” means:
i. news or information about current affairs;
ii. opinion about matters relating to the news or current affairs; or
iii. gossip about celebrities, other public figures or other persons in the news.
It is arguable – and Guido does argue – that since this blog’s server is in California the publication takes place in the US, under the protection of the First Amendment. Readers point their browsers at http://www.order-order.com and download the content from the server cache. The publishing tool is the server and it is definitely not in the United Kingdom. Which is why they introduced the second part: “or is is targeted primarily at an audience in the United Kingdom”. That is an interesting idea, which hopefully won’t catch on internationally. Imagine if the Iranian regime implemented the same law, demanding that the BBC’s Persian Service, which is broadcast from London, submitted to their regulator. Crazy.
Guido would be interested to hear what the many m’learned friends who read this blog think of this bit of the legislation. Who will the regulator pursue? Individual bloggers personally when they are in the jurisdiction? A foreign citizen, uploading to a foreign-hosted website, published by a foreign domiciled company – seems to Guido that this legal extra-territoriality has dubious legal foundations. Perhaps Maria Miller is planning to send Royal Navy gunboats to Wexford and California?
All the evidence has now been heard in Vicky Pryce’s trial, closing speeches will be presented to the jury tomorrow. Today Pryce’s eldest daughter Georgia Beesley took to the stand, alleging that Chris Huhne coerced his ex-wife into taking his points:
“I remember speaking to my mother and she told me that Chris had been caught speeding and was asking her to take speeding points. If he had taken the points he would have lost his licence. He was very insistent that she take the points for him. He would say to her that if she didn’t take them he would not be able to drive, that he would lose his licence, and that it would be her fault if he didn’t get elected. I did not appreciate at that time what it would be like to be living with someone constantly badgering you to do something that you know was wrong and feeling like you don’t have a choice.”
Pryce’s lawyer went on to read out a character reference from none other than ex-MI6 boss Sir John Scarlett, he of dodgy dossier fame. The case will conclude tomorrow…
Some great top lines from the opening day of Vicky Pryce’s trial, not least her description of her husband’s former bisexual lover as “that man of yours”. The jury of eight women and four men today heard the not so jaw-dropping admission that Vicky’s main motivation was revenge. Guido’s favourite Greek economist told Isabel Oakeshott: “I have no doubt that I definitely want to nail him, more than ever actually”.
The court heard how Pryce tried to trick Huhne into confessing all during a taped phone call, but he saw through it and told her: “This is absolute cobblers…you are the only person batty enough to go to the press with this”. As Pryce became more exasperated she told him: “there are people outside my door and it’s all to do with your f***ing points and your f***ing man and it’s nothing to do with me”. The fourth recorded phone call in which Huhne tells Pryce there is “no upside” to talking to the papers is one to note. The trial continues…
The court restrictions have been lifted. Rejecting Huhne’s application to have the case thrown out last week, Mr Justice Sweeney said the jury would “be free to draw adverse inference” from these texts between Chris Huhne and his son, Peter:
CH: Peter, just to say, I’m thinking of you and I love you very much. It would be great to talk to you, Dad.
PH: **** off
PH: So nice to see our entire relationship reduced to lies and pleasantries in that letter. Do you take me for an idiot? The fact you said your parents were happier as a result of their divorce was disgusting… when you were having affairs makes me sick. You are the most ghastly man I have ever known. Does it give you pleasure that you have lost most of your friends?
CH: I understand that I have really offended you but I hope that the passage of time will provide some perspective… I love you and I will be there to support you if you ever need it.
PH: You are right – the perspective involves me getting angrier with every day that goes by. You just don’t get it.
PH: We all know that you were driving and you put pressure on Mum. Accept it or face the consequences. You’ve told me that was the case. Or will this be another lie?
CH: I have no intention of sending Mum to Holloway Prison for three months. Dad
PH: Are you going to accept your responsibility or do I have to contact the police and tell them what you told me?
PH: I don’t want to speak to you, you disgust me, f**k off.
PH: You just don’t get it.
CH: Happy Christmas. I love you
PH: I hate you so f**k off.
CH: Well I’m proud and I love you, Dad.
PH: Leave me alone, you have no place in my life and no right to be proud. It’s irritating that you don’t seem to take the point. You are such an autistic piece of ****. Don’t contact me again you make me feel sick.
You don’t have to be a genius to work out how that would have gone down with a jury…
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Gordon Brown pretends:
“I learnt courage from Nelson Mandela.”